West Indies' spring tour of England could be severely undermined after it emerged five senior players are threatening to withdraw from the series to play in the IPL. Donald Peters, the chief executive of the West Indies Cricket Board, said a statement would be issued within the next two days detailing whether the players - including the captain Chris Gayle and senior batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul - will make themselves available for the tour of England.
"We have players who have been selected for the IPL, and we have a policy on how to deal with this," Peters told Cricinfo. "At this point, the negotiations are still ongoing, and we will inform people of the decision at the appropriate time. We have agreed with the players' association not to make any comment until after the talks. We expect to issue a joint release either later today (Thursday) or tomorrow."
Gayle and Chanderpaul, along with Dwayne Bravo, Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor, are understood to be angered that the tour of England, which coincides with the IPL, was organised last October without their consultation. The series was arranged bi-laterally between the WICB and the ECB after the withdrawal of Sri Lanka - whose players demanded they be allowed to play in the IPL - and falls outside the Future Tours Programme.
The West Indians are due to play their first tour match in England on April 21, just three days after the IPL launches in South Africa, with the first Test scheduled for Lord's from May 6. The players are understood to have been ordered to arrive in England no later than May 1, restricting their IPL availability to just 12 days after the tournament's start date was wound back from April 10 to April 18 to accomodate its shift from India to South Africa. IPL contracts are paid on a pro-rata basis.
Gayle and Chanderpaul are the pair most likely to stand down from international duty should negotiations between the WICB and WIPA break down over the next two days. Gayle signed with Kolkata in the inaugural IPL auction for $US800,000, while Chanderpaul was bought by Bangalore for $US200,000.
"We need to know what's going on soon because we are picking our squad for the England tour next week," John Dyson, the West Indies coach, told Cricinfo. "The chairman of selectors, in particular, needs an answer soon."
A similar dispute arose last year prior to Australia's tour of the West Indies. Several senior West indian players considered withdrawing from the first two Tests of the series to remain in the IPL, but returned after the WICB allowed them to skip a pre-series training camp. Chanderpaul, Bravo and Ramnaresh Sarwan arrived in the Caribbean just days before the first Test at Sabina Park.
Initial talks this week between the WICB and the West Indies Players' Association ended after two days without any progress in their ongoing dispute. Peters told Cricinfo the talks would resume on Wednesday, but declined to elaborate on whether the contractual dispute would likely be resolved.
A major obstacle that could stand between the West Indies players' and their desire to play in the IPL is the need for them to obtain No Objection Certificates from the WICB. But when confronted with a similar situation last year, the IPL commissioner, Lalit Modi, left the door open for West Indies players to join the lucrative Twenty20 tournament without the blessing of their board.
"We will request them to talk to their board first and seriously think about their situation," Modi said at the time. "Players should realise their respective boards are their bread and butter. Earning a few thousand dollars is not worth the risk of compromising your relationship with the home board in the long term. At the end of the day, if you are not representing your country, the IPL does not want you. So players should always be mindful of the importance of their relationship with their home board."
As things stand, most of the senior West Indies players are on central contracts which expire at the end of the England series. These were supposed to have been renegotiated some time back, but one insider close to the negotiations told Cricinfo the board was "not protecting the interests of sponsors and key stakeholders" by failing to do ensure that was done.
The insider said the players were "exceptionally greedy" adding that "it's Groundhog Day every year".
Last Friday, players refused to start three domestic one-day matches, while the national team blanked out Digicel branding on their kit with masking tape during the ODI against England. A number of them also boycotted a Digicel event in Guyana at the weekend.
Dinanath Ramnarine, WIPA's chief executive who resigned from the WICB executive last week, refused to comment as he left talks in Bridgetown. It is believed that further meetings are planned for early next week.